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Proposed state budget borders on insanity

January 20, 2011

All right, enough already! Texas' Republican leaders have vowed they won't be raising taxes, even though the state is facing a $15 billion revenue shortfall that some say will be more like $27 billion. Instead, the preliminary spending plan submitted to the Texas House on Tuesday calls for all sorts of new fees, designed to raise millions.

Oh, yes, there's also going to be a lot of cutting — like a proposed $5 billion cut to public schools!

And there would also be cuts to the state's contributions to the state employee retirement fund and the state's teacher retirement fund, eliminate financial aid for incoming freshmen and cuts to Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and other health and human services.

But perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the proposal released Tuesday was the draft calling for the closure of four community colleges — Odessa College, Frank Phillips College in Borger, Ranger College and Brazosport College in Lake Jackson. In all the proposal calls for cutting $145 million in state funding for Texas community colleges.

Although Texas Association of Community Colleges officials, among them Howard College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks, were planning on reduced state spending during the next biennium, there's no way they saw such a draconian proposal coming.

As a matter of fact, HC officials had already sliced 7.5 percent of its current budget preparing for what they new was going to be a decrease in state funding, but now lawmakers are attempting to cut state funding by 12 to 15 percent.

Tuesday morning, Sparks admitted that news of the planned closures came as a complete surprise. “We did anticipate we'd have reductions, but we did not know there was a plan to de-fund any community colleges,” she said, adding that the closures, if they are approved, would adversely effect the communities served by the colleges.

“Those four colleges do great work for the areas they serve,” she said. “They play very important roles in their respective areas of the state, and we will work together with officials from those schools to try to restore funding.”

Rep. Jim Pitts, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said last week "there are no sacred cows for this next biennium for our introduced bill."

Sacred cows?

From our jaundiced view, the GOP leadership in Austin has lost its collective mind!

Cuts to some programs, perhaps, but we can't help but have somewhat the same take as Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, had. "It's a catastrophe," he said. "No financial aid for kids to go to college. No pre-kindergarten ... health and human services slashed. No Texan can be proud of this."

Indeed. We're not!

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